DILG warns of ‘epal’ in distribution of aid in ECQ areas

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The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Saturday warned against “epal” or using a politician’s name, photo or image in the distribution of “ayuda” (financial assistance) to NCR Plus areas covered by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

The NCR Plus area comprises Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.

Epal is a derogatory term used to describe someone who likes to meddle or insert themselves into other people’s businesses, or a politician wanting to get political mileage.

The DILG and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) recently issued the guidelines for the distribution of financial assistance of P1,000 per individual – with a maximum of P4,000 per family – to residents affected by the ECQ in NCR Plus.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the release of P22.9 billion to fund the assistance.

“The use of the ayuda for partisan political purposes for the 2022 national elections is strictly prohibited. The DILG will not tolerate the politicization of government aid or tolerate the practice when we see it or made aware of it,” DILG spokesperson, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya, said.

Violators shall be held liable under Section 82 of the General Appropriations Act, which prohibits the use of the name, visage, appearance, logo, signature, or any other analogous image of any public official, whether elected or appointed, in all programs, activities, and projects of the government.

Administrative charges under Commission on Audit (COA) Circular 2013-004 may also be filed against public officials violating the prohibition.

The COA Circular also prohibits the display of pictures, images, logos, initials or any other graphic representation of the implementing officials in all government programs and projects.

The public may file complaints with the DILG, together with photos and other documentary evidence.

Malaya assured the public that safeguards are in place to ensure that the funds will get to the intended beneficiaries and that there is an appeals process in local government units (LGUs).

“We will make sure that the funds downloaded to the LGUs are used for purposes they were intended for. Before distribution, the mayor should issue an executive order detailing therein the type, manner, or process of distribution so that the public is properly guided. They are also required to create a Grievance and Appeals Committee per LGU where people can submit complaints,” he said.

The LGU Grievance and Appeals Committee, he added, shall handle all complaints from the public with dispatch.

The DILG will also create a Joint Monitoring and Inspection Team (JMIT) in each LGU headed by the DILG City/Municipal Local Government Operations Officer and representatives of the DSWD, Philippine National Police (PNP), City or Provincial Prosecutors Office, and civil society organizations.

The JMIT will address complaints or grievances from their constituents concerning the financial aid, monitor LGU compliance with applicable guidelines, seek the assistance of higher authorities in case of undue delay or systemic anomalies in the distribution, and cause the filing of administrative or criminal cases against public officials or individuals involved in irregular or unlawful practices relative to the financial aid.

As part of the JMIT, the PNP will immediately investigate and do case build-up on reported cases of anomalies, irregularities, or graft and corruption concerning the aid distribution.

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